In the transportation industry, civil engineers design and create the things that help the transportation system operate.
A civil engineer might design and supervise the construction of roads, bridges, or highways. They might develop systems to improve the environment, like solar-powered traffic signals. They could even work on large, multi-million-dollar projects like building new airports and runways. In fact, civil engineers designed nearly everything you see that helps people travel from place to place.
But it’s not always “things” that interest civil engineers. Sometimes, it's ideas or concepts.
Mohamed Bouzaghrane, Jack Cebe and Colin Frosch are attending college to become civil engineers. All three are also specializing in transportation. Though they attend different universities, these students have something in common. Each student is working on ideas to make transportation safer, more convenient, and more efficient for people who rely on walking, biking, or public transportation to get around.
Mohamed attends Howard University in Washington, D.C. He recently received the distinguished Dwight David Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship to conduct research on two projects in the D.C. area. The first project involves connecting the city’s streetcar system to other modes of transit, including the local bus system. This idea would allow a traveler to use public transit to complete their entire trip without ever needing a taxi. For his second project, he is researching priority bus lanes. These are street lanes designated specifically for use by buses, which allows buses to travel faster. They also cut down on the congestion that occurs when cars and buses share roads.
Jack is a transportation planning and civil engineering master’s student at Georgia Tech. He, too, received an Eisenhower Fellowship to conduct research in transportation. Jack’s research focuses on bicycle and pedestrian transportation issues. He is studying street designs that make travelling safer and more convenient for non-motorized forms of transportation. Jack’s idea is that by creating bike- and pedestrian-friendly spaces, fewer people will rely on cars to get around. The result will benefit the environment and also reduce traffic congestion and pollution within cities. He is also looking into the concept of complete streets. Complete streets are designed to be user-friendly to all modes of transportation, not just cars. A complete street might contain a bike lane, a widened crosswalk, and special traffic signals for the vision or hearing impaired, all at the same time.
Colin Frosch—our third Eisenhower Fellowship recipient—is a civil engineering major at West Virginia University. Like Jack, Colin is interested in making transportation safer and more convenient for pedestrians and bicyclists. He is currently studying a new approach to the design of streets called shared spaces. This design encourages cars to slow down, pay attention, and even make eye contact with pedestrians and bicyclists. Colin is helping his university campus become a shared space. He believes that this concept can reduce the risk of accidents and increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
All three of these students will have the opportunity to see their ideas come to life as civil engineers. By studying civil engineering and transportation in college, you too could create ways to improve transportation for people all over the world.
Want to learn more about careers in civil engineering? Check out this Wikipedia article. Then, make sure to visit the American Society of Civil Engineers' webpage. Check out their Younger Members Program to find out if there’s a chapter near you. And make sure to keep following Fast Forward for more transportation career spotlights!